Brain Power

Strong Mind, Strong Body

Our muscles are burning, feeling like they have nothing left. We tend to think that the reason our muscles are begging for no more is because they simply can’t push any further.

However, what if I told you that it wasn’t your muscles that decided to give out, but that it was your brain telling your muscles that you have had enough?

Well that is exactly the case according to a study done in 2007. Scientists in South Africa tested exhausted marathon runners to see what their glycogen (the bodies main source for fuel) and ATP (a chemical that stores energy) looked like after seemingly being able to go no further.

What these tests showed was that although these marathon runners were exhausted, they still had plenty of glycogen and ATP left in their bodies.

Scientist concluded, that fatigue does not set in because our muscles run out of energy, but because the brain sends signals to the muscles telling them they need to conserve energy.

This makes perfect sense, as this is a survival method passed down by our ancestors. Thousands of years ago, hunters and gatherers would go on hunts that lasted hours at a time so they could bring food back for their families.

During these hunts, there was no way the brain would ever allow the hunters and gatherers to get to full exhaustion because of the threat of danger. I mean can you imagine if these hunters came face to face with a saber tooth tiger or a 12-foot cave bear?

The brain knew it needed to store some back up energy just in case these hunters needed to sprint away from danger.

Although we may not have to deal with such danger in today’s world, the natural energy reserves that our brain holds on to has stayed with us. So the question we have to ask, is how do we tap into these energy reserves to push our bodies a little further to get more fit and in even better shape?

Let’s take a look:

Train Your Brain

When you go for a workout and don’t have a set time for how long it will last, your brains natural response is to error on the side of caution when it comes to supplying you energy.

Because your brain doesn’t know the length of the workout, it also doesn’t know how much energy you will need to get through the workout. So you may find that exercises are harder than usual because your brain wants to ensure you have enough reserve energy just in case the saber tooth tiger decides to make a comeback.

You must learn to train your brain that it is ok to push longer than it may actually want to. A great way to push through the onset of fatigue is through interval training. Doing work in intervals tells the brain that it is all right to push your body hard for the 30 seconds because it knows you will be getting a 1-2 minute rest right afterwards.

If you train in interval fashion for a few weeks, your brain will adjust and start to learn that you are able to go harder for a longer period of time. This does not mean you should go over 45 minutes in your workout. This is simply teaching your brain to allow you to push harder during your exercises and workouts.

Change Your Mindset

Have you ever gone into a workout thinking, “Gosh, I just cannot wait for this to be over. This is going to be the worst.” Of course you have, we all have!

Having this sort of mindset can have a huge affect on your workouts and energy levels.

On the other hand, if you go into a workout with a positive attitude (even if it is a fake positive) you will find that you have much more energy and focus.

I tested this out recently and I can attest that it works. Going into my last 5 exercise circuit, I was just not looking forward to getting it done. However, I knew I was so close to being done with the workout so I faked some energy, put a smile on my face and got through it. And you know what? I dominated it. It felt better than any other set I had done that day.

It is amazing the power of the mind. If you don’t like working out, many times it is simply a mindset you have trained your brain to have. Try switching that around when going into your next workout and try telling me you don’t have more fun and more energy.

Visualize Your Success

You are at the end of a workout or trying to get in one more set before moving on to your next exercise; this is where the power of visualization can come into play. Being around sports my whole life, visualization is a familiar topic.

Many of the great athletes talk about how important visualization is to their performance and how they could never enter a game without doing it beforehand.

The same holds true for when you are working out. If you envision yourself doing an exercise, you are more likely to get it completed. For example, if you had one more sprint left to do and had no idea how you were going to run that final 80 yards, try visualizing it.

Not only that, but try to visualize it so you end the sprint with energy left over. Many times you can trick your brain into thinking you have much more energy than it is allowing your body to have.

This also holds true when you are lifting. Try visualizing yourself doing the exercise before doing it. You will find that you will be more focused and have more energy when you perform the set.

Conclusion

The brain is a powerful resource that many of us do not use at all when working out. I don’t think we realize just how powerful the brain and the mind is. Just like our bodies, it learns to adapt very quickly when we train it correctly. Start taking advantage of the brain you have been given and start using it more to your advantage.

If you want a strong body, many times it starts with having a strong mind…

I would love to hear your feedback on this. Also, be sure to try out what we just covered and let me know how it goes. Leave your comments below and be sure to ‘Like’, Tweet, and +1! 

6 Comments

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